Monsieur de Saint-George: Virtuoso, Swordsman, Revolutionary: A Legendary Life Rediscovered

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9780312309275: Monsieur de Saint-George: Virtuoso, Swordsman, Revolutionary: A Legendary Life Rediscovered

The first full biography of one of the greatest figures of eighteenth-century Europe, known in his time as the "Black Mozart"

Virtually forgotten until now, his life is the stuff of legend. Born in 1739 in Guadeloupe to a slave mother and a French noble father, he became the finest swordsman of his age, an insider at the doomed court of Louis XVI, and, most of all, a virtuosic musician. A violinist, he directed the Olympic Society of Concerts, which was considered the finest in Europe in an age of great musicians, including Haydn, from whom he commissioned a symphony, and Mozart, to whom he was often compared. He also became the first Freemason of color, embracing the French Revolution with the belief that it would end the racism against which—despite his illustrious achievements—he struggled his whole life. This is the life of Joseph Bologne, known variously as Monsieur de Saint-George, the “Black Mozart,” and, because of his origins, "the American." Alain Guédé offers a fascinating account of this extraordinary individual, whose musical compositions are at long last being revived and whose story will never again be forgotten.

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About the Author:

Alain Guédé is a journalist for the French newspaper Le canard enchaine. A leading expert on the life and music of Saint-George, Guédé has organized a website that follows developments in Saint-George’s rediscovery.

From Booklist:

Joseph Saint-George (1739-99) was the son of a slave mother, Nanon, and an aristocrat come to Guadeloupe to seek his fortune. In 1748, the family returned to Paris, where Nanon was freed, and Joseph, showing great promise as a musician, was sent to the premier fencing school, where he excelled in fencing, running, horsemanship, dancing--and music. The salons of Paris welcomed him, and soon he was directing chamber orchestras and composing songs and chamber music for Paris' salons, and symphonies, concertos, operas, and theater music, too. The Enlightenment was enjoying its heyday, and Saint-George supported the social revolution and served subsequently as a colonel in the revolutionary army. Guede treats slavery in the French colonies and the events leading to the French Revolution, in which Saint-George played minor roles, much more thoroughly than he does Saint-George's music. The dandy, royal sweetheart, fencer, huntsman, military commander, and diplomat Saint-George is the subject of this story, and Guede weaves him into the fabric of eighteenth-century France while lighting his path through tumultuous times. Alan Hirsch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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